Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Tweet claims vitamin D deficiency is ‘one of the more serious issues of our time’

What is one of the more serious issues of our time? Pollution and climate change? Broken systems in our society that fueled the obesity epidemic and non-communicable diseases? Growing inequalities in socio-economic status? Food and water insecurity? Racism and sexism? Corruption? Collapses in the education system? Well, on April 1st, someone named Jeffrey Boadi claimed on Twitter that “one of the more serious issues of our time” is vitamin D deficiency:

Was it an April Fool’s joke? Does not look like that. A day after tweeting, “Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most serious issues of our time that is constantly overlooked,” Boadi followed up the next day on April 2 with a tweet about Vitamin D supplements. This Boadi-acious tweet thread was perhaps what prompted the phrase “Vitamin D” to tend to Twitter then.

The trend has included a number of anonymous social media accounts claiming that vitamin D supplements have changed their lives. Of course, you can not really verify such allegations, as you can not really say who or what bot could have been behind such tweets. Therefore, you usually should not get advice from graffiti in a bathroom stall.

Then there were tweets like the following:

Oh, Here, Here. Or maybe, Overlordy, Overlordy. Our overlords told us to “avoid exercise / sunlight?” When exactly did the reality TV show The old guy tell us to do it? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website makes it clear that “Spending time outdoors can improve overall health and well-being. The outdoors offers many opportunities to be physically active. Outdoor time can also improve mental health and promotes stress reduction. ”

And why exactly should Vitamin D have been the CDC’s “# 1 recommendation” two years ago? Did this tweet suggest that vitamin D was somehow the key to fighting the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic? If so, on the basis of what real scientific evidence? I covered for Forbes in February how a study found that vitamin D supplementation was associated with shorter Covid-19-related hospital stays. But it is far from clear that such supplements can prevent the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Unless vitamin D was so effective against Covid-19, why would the CDC not say so? Well, here’s what another anonymous social media account tweeted:

Oh, that’s right. It all had to do with ballot papers and fraud during the election. Why not throw in space lasers, brown shirts and pink unicorns too?

This push of the “Vitamin D deficiency is overlooked” narrative may be why some have just noticed and tried to ignore the trend, as gynecologist Jen Gunter, managing director:

Others such as minimally invasive and bariatric surgeon Arghavan Salles, MD, PhD, have more actively questioned the “serious issues of our time” and “overlooked” claim:

Elizabeth T Jacobs, Ph.D.

And Jacobs actually has an MS in Nutrition from Purdue University, and a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona. She is a cancer and chronic disease epidemiologist whose research covers vitamin D:

Instead, a link on Boadi’s Twitter profile takes you to a website advertising its “Eat More Plants” recipe book. The “More about” section of this site does not make clear what specific scientific experience or credentials will qualify him as a nutrition or health expert.

Where exactly is the evidence that Vitamin D has been overlooked? The National Library of Medicine (NLM) maintains a website on vitamin D deficiencies. It clearly lists the known problems associated with vitamin D deficiency, such as various bone problems such as osteoporosis. The NLM page does say that “Researchers are studying vitamin D for its possible links with various medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis. They need to do more research before they can understand the effects of vitamin D on these conditions. ”

So, while vitamin D deficiency certainly deserves attention, it would be a bit much to call it “one of the more serious issues of our time” and “overlooked”. There are a number of more serious issues to address in health and our society today. In fact, one of the most serious issues of our time is people disseminating misinformation that is contrary to real scientific information merely for political or monetary gain. Just look at how many people have pretended to be nutritionists or other scientific experts without the corresponding credentials, experience and credibility. Without adequate precautions in place, you can say that this problem is being seriously overlooked.

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